I follow many blogs and websites that are written by parents of children with autism or other special needs. The articles, insights, advice and resources are highly valuable and often let me know that there is someone out there who understands our world. One of the trends that I have found on many of these blogs is the tendency to vent over other people making statements to us parents such as “things happen for a reason,” “you were meant to have this experience,” god won’t give you what you can’t handle,” “this is a blessing you will learn from,” and many more. My sense is that parents become upset and frustrated by statements such as these because it is not evident to them that this may be a blessing as they prepare for their next IEP meeting; or they feel they are not different or more skilled than anyone else at managing a child with special needs. I get it, I really do and like anyone who has lived through or is currently living through a difficult situation whether that be illness, divorce, caring for an elder parent, losing a job, etc. it is pretty tough to view any seemingly negative occurrences as a blessing or a gift to grow from.
Way back when my husband and I finally decided to start trying to have a baby, we had no idea what to expect. For a long time, neither of us was 100% positive that we were going to have children and wavered back and forth on the topic for years. I have never considered myself the “motherly” type and was not sure if having kids was in my future. Even at a younger age I can remember thinking that maybe being a mom was just not in the cards for me. Eventually, we decided that we definitely wanted to have children and made the decision to start. Making the decision was the easy part as it turns out because what followed was two years of pregnancies, miscarriages, doctor appointments, tests, fertility treatments and heartbreak. I would not wish those struggles on anyone and I know so many close friends who have experienced many of the same challenges or still do. Those years were some of the darkest in my life and time and again people would say to me “it all happens for a reason or it will happen when it is meant to happen.” Well guess what – I wanted to punch people for saying that and it only fueled anger, frustration and resentment in me. I realize that people did not mean any harm and they were simply trying to offer comfort and support but at that time in my life, I honestly could not find any positive reasons for our experience and there was little solace in thinking that this wasn’t meant to be. Going to baby showers was brutal, hearing the news of a surprise pregnancy was crushing and frankly I found myself retreating and become very angry at the world. I can guess that other people feel this way when going through many of life’s challenges but it is certainly not a fun way to feel and can really take it toll on your mental and emotional health.
Fast forward to today and I am lucky to have two awesome little boys. I still think about the babies that I never got to meet and I will probably hold a place for them in my heart forever but I now can look back and realize that maybe things do happen for a reason. Maybe not. I doubt I will ever view those two years as a blessing however it was definitely a learning experience and one that made me stronger, made me braver and taught my husband and I so much about life and about each other. It seems that it really is the toughest times that prove who you are or show you who you want to be. Our experience also gave me a different perspective on life in general and has instilled a greater sense of compassion and empathy for other people who are going through a challlenge or struggle.
So here is my point – I don’t expect people to try to view every bad situation as a blessing or life lesson, I certainly don’t and am doubtful that I ever will (no matter how many positive self development books I read). In no way do I judge or fault those whose blogs I mentioned in the beginning of this post because I often feel the same way and just want to say “why me” about so much that has been thrown our way. But the hard truth is the grass is rarely greener and everyone has something to deal with. Maybe there are some challenges that are placed in front of us for a reason. I never thought I was cut out to be a mom, never really had any idea about teaching children, educating children, milestones or any of it. If my first child had no special needs or delays, I probably would have been a good mom who let the schools or daycares manage most of the day to day education and simply played and had fun with him at home. But instead, I have been forced to become educated about what children need to learn, how to teach them in different manners and how to engage them in various ways. I wouldn’t have read all of these books, attended courses on speech and communication, watched videos on baby sign language, organized and labeled toys, laminated daily activity cards or any of the things we have done. Doing these things does not make me any better or more special than other people, it just means we got dealt a different hand and made some accommodations to play that hand to win. Charlie and Owen teach me things about life all of the time and I am pretty sure all of you have learned a lot from your kids. I am simply choosing to view this time in our lives as a blessing not because I am some crazed happy go lucky person but because selfishly going through this has actually made me a better person and I think it has made me a better mom. I cannot say yet that Charlie will or will not benefit from his delays or challenges but I have a sneaking suspicion it will make him (and already does make him) a major success at whatever he chooses to do in life.